10 Online Business Ideas That Never Took Off

38 Studios
Joe McIntyre holds up a hatchet as the contents of Curt Schilling's bankrupt video game company 38 Studios are auctioned off in 2010. Bill Greene/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

For those not in the know, "MMORPG" stands for "massively multiplayer online role-playing game," a large-scale computer game that people all over the world can play simultaneously. The most popular games have tens of millions of subscribers devoted to playing out elaborate role-playing scenarios in complex fantasy worlds. Legendary major league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling is a huge MMO fan, and in 2006 he founded 38 Studios to fulfill a lifelong dream of building the biggest, best one ever.

It didn't go well. You name the startup disaster, it happened to 38 Studios. Schilling went big right out of the gate, focusing solely on creating an enormous game from scratch instead of warming up with smaller projects. The company never got a major investor, forcing Schilling to spend millions of his own dollars. The management team was constantly feuding and in flux. Eventually, the state of Rhode Island came through with a $75 million loan to get the company to move there, but it was never repaid, leading to a drawn-out legal battle with the state. In 2012, 38 Studios declared bankruptcy with $151 million in debt [source: Schwartz].

Oh, and the game? Code-named "Copernicus," it was reportedly spectacular, but it was never completed.